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What we’re watching in Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake

RSL have been playing well as they head to Providence Park

Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

Real Salt Lake have seen a bump in form with wins over San Jose and Seattle last week. As interim head coach Pablo Mastroeni experiments with three at the back, the team is improving. The Timbers are looking strong, with four wins and one draw in their last five games. The Timbers are 5th place in the west, and RSL is 6th, with just a single point separating these teams. This game has big implications in the western conference playoff race.

Three in defense

RSL’s first outing with the three at the back was rough, but they team has started to make good use of the system. Against Seattle, it proved highly effective and gave more freedom to the midfield. The win over the Sounders is Pablo’s greatest accomplishment to date and this system helped that to happen. The crucial piece to all this is the center backs. With Marcelo Silva injured, we’ll see Glad, Datkovic, and Holt again. Holt has improved his play and started to look more comfortable at the MLS level while Datkovic settles into the team.

Aaron Herrera

Herrera has been a joy to watch the past few seasons. He’s level with Rusnak for assist this season at nine (which puts Aaron at third in the league). His attacking instincts have been incredible and helped the team immensely. With the team going to three at the back, how does that impact his game? Does Herrera get back to defend often and how much is he getting forward to provide those assists?

Another busy week

RSL are heading into another busy week as they play Portland tonight, host the Galaxy on Wednesday, then finish away to Austin next weekend. This season was always going have a hectic schedule but these games are adding up and it will cause some stress on the players. Of the upcoming games, the Timbers is the biggest challenge. We’re likely to see the strongest XI today, unless Pablo wants to prioritize a home win against LA. Player rotation will be a key for success this week, but the question is if that starts tonight.

Injury report

Out: Zack Farnsworth, Bobby Wood, Marcelo Silva

Predicted lineup